Coming out at a time where we have so many shark-related B-Movies from Sharknado to 5 Headed Shark Attack, The Meg sets out to be one of the first big budget movies to be released during this trend. The film stars Jason Statham a Navy seal with a history with a prehistoric shark, the single greatest set in cinematic history. The Meg is unleashed when Chinese scientist Fi Bing Bing leads a team to go down to the deepest part of the ocean, she breaks a seal that unleashes the shark and Jason Statham’s character is called in to try and stop it. So, in many ways a sort of revenge flick with a killer shark.
These sorts of movies can go so wrong, so quickly but the semi-brilliance of The Meg is that it manages to strike a tone that only some, well made, straight-to-DVD movies manage to create, complete silliness which also feels serious. Statham looking into the camera as a shark bites his submarine during the opening of the film is a perfect example of this. He only says, “Oh my god” but the line is delivered in a way that only “The Stath” can. There are moments like this throughout the movie. Verging the line from silliness to serious, another stand-out moment where our hero is dramatically swimming towards the shark but singing Dory’s “just keep swimming” song from Finding Nemo.
It doesn’t always get it right though, the first act of the movie before The Meg breaks free from the depths of the ocean, ends up being a long-winded rescue attempt that is clearly trying to build yet it lacks any tension. These are either defused by a throwaway comedic line or just plainly executed poorly. These moments which crop up in the later parts of the movie as well, made me ask myself why this didn’t just go all in on the R rating. It would have allowed this movie to go all in on the serious silliness with blood, guts and actual horror elements that would complement its action.
Still, the movie makes the best of what it can do with the restrictive PG-13/12a rating. Resulting in a lot more fun with the set pieces, one great one which includes a shark cage and a boat overturning in a slightly ridiculous way and the entire movie culminating with what you wanted to see, Jason Statham and a one on one fight with a massive shark. No boat. No submarine. Just pure Statham.
The film is a Chinese/American co-production following The Great Wall as one of the first I’ve seen to be wholly set in China and have Chinese actors accompanying an American action star. This falls into some of the same pitfalls with the plot being overly simple and characters being a collection of large stereotypes. Take Rainn Wilson’s character, an eccentric American billionaire whose only job is to scream and be the sarcastic goofball. Since these characters have no meat on their bones, other than Statham, it leads to a weird disconnected feeling which I can imagine would translate over to the Chinese audiences as well where you feel nothing for them. I take Statham out of the equation mainly because of the cute relationship he forms with a little girl on the ship called Mei, the daughter of Fi Bing Bing’s character. They provide some of the few moments with actual heart in what would other be a soulless action movie.
You’re not going into The Meg expecting to be wowed by great performances and a powerful social message. You’re only there to have fun, watch a shark and turn your brain off for two hours. In that respect, The Meg does succeed in an ultimately forgettable piece of mainstream entertainment. As a film, there is no doubt room for improvement, the first being a higher age rating giving you more room to play with during shark attacks and the rest going to fixing the strange disconnect between characters. Although, I’m willing to forgive all of that when you take into consideration the gag on the ending title card.